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The 7 holiday reality competitions premiering this week

The 7 holiday reality competitions premiering this week
Jonathan Bennett, host of Holiday Wars. (Photo by Food Network)

Happy Thanksgiving week! Besides Thursday’s parade and football games, there’s other TV premiering, perhaps a welcome distraction from the reality of Friday’s orgy of consumerism or Thursday’s family time joy.

We’re starting to enter peak holiday reality TV, especially with seven holiday competitions premiering, but there are other shows, too, including a new four-hour documentary series that I highly recommend. Let’s start our weekly premiere preview with that.

What I recommend: College Behind Bars

College Behind Bars (PBS, Monday and Tuesday at 9) is a four-part series that goes behind the scenes of the Bard Prison Initiative, telling the stories of students and those who work in the program.

Later today, I’ll have a longer review that includes interviews with director Lynn Novick and producer Sarah Botstein.

All four episodes will be streaming on and its apps after the premiere tonight. Watch its trailer:

?? 7 new holiday competitions

Freeform's new reality competition is Wrap Battle
Freeform’s new reality competition is Wrap Battle. (Photo by Kelsey McNeal/Freeform)

While there are several holiday competitions already underway, and more to come, Thanksgiving week brings seven premieres, the majority of which are brand-new formats.

Tonight is the premiere of Wrap Battle (Freeform, Mondays at 9), which is, yes, a gift-wrapping competition. Carson Kressley is one of the judges, and it’s from the producers of Skin Wars, so I am very much looking forward to it.

On Black Friday, Top Elf premieres (Nickelodeon, Fridays at 8). On the new show, kids who have “extraordinary building and design skills” compete. The prize is help for “good causes in their hometowns,” according to the network.

Thanksgiving day brings another new holiday baking competition, because we can never get enough of those: Santa’s Baking Blizzard (Food Network, Thursdays at 9), follows teams of bakers and ice sculptors creating Christmas scenes.

The Great Food Truck Race: Holiday Hustle (Food Network, Wednesdays at 10) is a winter version of the competition series, which—as is now usual for the show—isn’t actually between people who run food trucks, but “aspiring food truck teams.”

Jonathan Bennett is back to host Holiday Wars (Food Network, Sundays at 9), which is followed by the return of Holiday Gingerbread Showdown (Food Network, Sundays at 10) with new host Paige Davis; each episode, three gingerbread artists compete.

A six-episode holiday-themed season of Adriano Zumbo’s Netflix competition series starts that day, too: Sugar Rush Christmas (Netflix, Friday).

Other premieres and specials

Ellen's Game of Games, Sarah Himmelstein
Sarah Himmelstein competing on Ellen DeGeneres’ new NBC show Ellen’s Game of Games (Photo by Mike Rozman/NBC)

Ellen’s Game of Games airs a special pre-Thanksgiving episode (NBC, Wednesday, Nov. 27, at 8).

On Thanksgiving day:

  • NatGeo WILD will air a marathon of its vet shows (NatGeo WILD, starting at 3 p.m.), including Dr. K’s Exotic Animal ER, Dr. Oakley: Yukon Vet, The Incredible Dr. Pol, and Dr. T: Lone Star Vet
  • Lance Bass hosts a special Outrageous Holiday Houses (HGTV, Thursday, Nov. 28, at 11), which the network describes as “a whirlwind coast-to-coast tour of North America’s most spectacular holiday displays.” Those include Drew Scott and Linda Phan’s gingerbread-decorated house in L.A.

Broken (Netflix, Wednesday) arrives just in time for Black Friday: it’s a documentary series that “exposes the unknown fraud, corruption and negligence behind some of the world’s most popular merchandise,” according to Netflix.

There’s also a new documentary series The Movies that Made Us (Netflix, Friday), which looks at “blockbusters that defined a generation,” according to Netflix.

Finally, Lindsay Vonn: The Final Season (HBO, Tuesday, Nov. 26, at 10) profiles the Olympian and skiing champion.

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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